Artist Robert Hummel sees Princeton through a little bit of a different lens than most artists.
He paints the sights of Princeton in vivid colors and from diverse angles. His paintings depict the restaurants, shops, churches and university. He also shows the seasons, weather and night scenes of the town. His distinctive work is popular and very familiar to Princeton residents.
Hummel, who lives and paints in Princeton, grew up in a family of makers. His mother and grandmothers could draw, make crafts, and paint ceramics. They encouraged his passion for art, and his aunt had the art supplies to keep him drawing and painting during summers in the 1970s. These were impressionable times for Hummel.
“I was allowed to experiment with making things,” he said. “The best summer memories of my life were those years in the 60s and 70s.”
Hummel was raised in and attended high school in Sayreville, and art school at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where he majored in commercial art and design.
“After graduating and working in that field in Florida, I gravitated to the scenic art profession, designing and creating sets and props and decorating some of the most elaborate theme parties in South Florida,” Hummel said.
Upon returning to New Jersey, he worked for years with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade studio in Hoboken.
“I helped create with the large team, year round, on six exciting parades under the lifelong creative director Manfred Bass,” Hummel said. “It was there I honed my craft of using my color and imagination in their designs that were intended to entertain children on Thanksgiving morning each year. I developed my love of children’s books and illustrations many of which we used for inspiration for the floats Manfred created. That is why I like to capture a little whimsy in my current work and step out of the box to create a magically painted scene that almost tells a story when viewing them.”
Hummel paints in bright, saturated, almost fluorescent acrylics. He loves the night views of Princeton along with snow and rainy scenes. His vibrant oranges, yellow, and violets work perfectly for these scenes.
“I started a rainy series of paintings two years ago with ‘A Showery Day’ on Witherspoon Street. It was inspired by a rainy day with thunder and lightning outside while in my studio, which was pleasant in a strange way while listening to the sounds,” Hummel said. “It was not intended to be a rainy scene at first but with the torrential storm we had that day I decided to make it raining and was pleased with the last minute decision and process. Never did a rain scene before that one. Snow scenes are my other favorites to capture, especially on snowy days.”
Hummel consistently showed his paintings at the Chez Alice Café for 20 years before new ownership went in a different direction. He is actively seeking a new location to showcase his Princeton paintings
Visiting with cousins in town growing up, Hummel was drawn to exploring Princeton as a youth and carried that interest into his later artwork.
“My first painting was of the Nassau Inn and the beautiful Norwegian spruce Christmas tree after I
attended my first tree lighting that year. I was hooked from that first magical Princeton moment on. I began creating one after another, mainly nocturnal scenes, as I loved the way the light emitted from the architecture and would cast a warm glow from within as I took many evening strolls in town and on campus. I truly love living here,” Hummel said.
Hummel said one of the best parts of being a painter is hearing the comments from people on how his images make them feel. “The things I dream up that come easy to me and that they want to take it home to enjoy is very rewarding,” he said.
“There are so many sights of Princeton to paint. Whenever I think I have seen it all I turn a corner on many of my campus exploratory stroll and discover a building or special view that I have not seen before. To me that is exciting plus it changes with the seasons,” Hummel said. “I love all the blooming such as to prolific magnolias and springtime flowers as well as how the landscape transforms after a fresh snowfall. Two paintings I especially enjoyed painting a few times are Albert Einstein’s house on Mercer Street with strange orbs, and the beautiful Hamilton Jewelers Tudor on Nassau and Witherspoon Streets. There is endless material and views to paint here.”